Not the Tate, nor the Porthminster, the Penwith Gallery has more of the air of the original St Ives artists movement who established their own styles of abstraction in workshops along Porthmeor beach under the name of the Penwith Society of Arts.
We particularly enjoyed the Peter Morrell Retrospective, his paintings and sculptures playing with so many aspects of abstract composition. Then the Associates’ Summer Exhibition in the main exhibition area, lit by mostly natural light reflected in off the slate roof tiles and the white rendering . Much to enjoy and think about here and an interestingly wide variety of objects (that I would naively call “sculptures”) as well as flat media.
And elsewhere, fascinating semi-abstract works by Wilhemina Barns-Graham and fully abstract work by Bryan Wynter, both artists who still seem under-represented in surveys of the canon of the St. Ives movement.
Inspired and visually stimulated, we walked out in to the distinctive light quality of the West Penwith sunshine to enjoy the sights and shapes of St. Ives with renewed vigour.
Further west along Porthmeor beach, the imposing facade of the Tate St. Ives gallery stares out towards the Atlantic, spookily reminiscent of an Atlantic Wall blockhouse from World War 2; the conventional explanation is that the architecture of the Tate St. Ives echoes the town gas holder that was formerly on this site. I see alternative, subversive, interpretations of the architecture along the lines of avant-garde artwork becoming adopted by the mainstream and defended with the closed mentality of the blockhouse.
Other galleries are available in St. Ives... approaching four dozen according to a recent count. How wonderful that the artistic tradition appears to continue and flourish, how unlike the French Riviera where the heyday of break-away art seems to have long since passed..
Block house on Cap Ferrat - Sentier Littoral